The arrival of a new sibling can bring many changes to a family. Parents spend a lot of energy on preparations, and after the baby arrives, much of the family’s attention involves meeting the newborn’s basic needs.
All this change can be hard for older siblings to handle. It’s common for them to feel jealousy toward the newborn and to react to the upheaval by acting out and can sometimes take the news quite badly… just like these little tots.
But parents can prepare their kids for an addition to the family. Discussing the pregnancy in terms that make sense to kids, making some arrangements, and including kids in the care of the newborn can make things easier for everyone.
When discussing your pregnancy, consider your own comfort level and your child’s maturity level. It may be useful to explain that the baby will arrive in a particular season, such as winter or when it’s cold outside, instead of ‘in a couple of months’ as they may not grasp this timescale.
Think about the details
How much detail should you provide? Let your child’s questions be your guide. For example, a 4-year-old child may ask: “Where do babies come from?” Despite how it sounds, the child isn’t asking you to explain sex but probably wants to know where, literally, they come from. It may be enough to explain: “The baby comes from the uterus, which is inside the mother’s belly.” A child who wants to know more will ask.
Bring big bro or sis in for a visit
Consider letting your child visit you in the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born, ideally when no other visitors are around — this helps reinforce the birth as an intimate family event.
Try to keep their routines as regular as possible in the days and weeks around the baby’s arrival.
With all of the changes that a new baby can bring, some older kids might struggle as they try to adjust. Encourage older kids to talk about their feelings about the new baby. If a child cannot articulate those feelings, don’t be surprised if he or she tests limits or reverts to speaking in baby talk.
Understand behaviour if it changes
If your child acts up, don’t bend the rules, but understand what feelings may be motivating that behavior. It could be a sign that your child needs more one-on-one time with you, but make it clear that although his or her feelings are important, they have to be expressed in appropriate ways.
And remember, they are now siblings, they love each other.